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Three Ways Deliberate Kindness Can Transform Your Life

Written by: Angela C M Cox, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

I love random acts of kindness. Who doesn’t? That feeling of being good to the world. That dopamine hit as you pay for that coffee or hold that door open for a stranger. You can almost feel your imaginary cape unfurling behind you.


Stories shared on social media in recent years illustrating acts of radical kindness can often restore your faith in humanity.

But I have frequently experienced less positive feelings around random acts of kindness, too. I have gotten caught in the “Do you want to pay for the coffee of the person behind you?” line, and what I actually felt in that moment, to my shame, was not particularly kind. I actually felt two things. Pressured to behave in a certain way and guilty about not being eager to play along.


My empathy was also triggered because even though it’s a delightful gesture, what happens if a single person buying one small cup of coffee is asked to pay for a carload of frappuccinos and pastries behind them? I resented being caught off guard, and I worried about others who might feel the same, but I also felt deeply guilty at the thought of breaking the chain. Would I then be perceived as unkind?


Meanwhile, I look at the barista managing the entire affair from their breezy drive-through window and wonder how the whole affair is affecting their tip jar. Surely if anyone in this situation needed some kindness, it’s the retail worker trying to live on an hourly wage?

Random kindness is great. I have known people to be deeply uplifted and encouraged by these acts. I myself have experienced one kind word in a difficult moment and felt the tension shift and my stress lessen.


So yes, Random Acts of Kindness are wonderful. But so often those are more about the people doing them than they are about the recipients. (And there's nothing wrong with that. Kindness does tend to have a ripple effect!)But what if kindness could truly be about treating others as they want and need to be treated? What if we decreased the randomness and increased consent and empathy? What if we focused on impact over intention?


Deliberate kindness means we slow down, look around, and get to know what is truly needed in a situation and consider what we could do to have the greatest positive impact before we act. In becoming more deliberate in our kindness, we can honor the diversity of those around us and make an even bigger impact with our kindness.

Deliberate Kindness creates safety

Many years ago, after a talk on Introversion and Extraversion, I was approached by man who sheepishly confided in me. “My wife calls me a vampire. I’m an extravert and she’s an introvert, and sometimes I just suck all the energy out of her.” He went on to tell me ways that, over the years, they had learned to manage their different energies, and it was a happy-ending kind of story that showed richness of grace and depths of kindness that are hallmarks of great partnerships. Above all, it highlights for me in that moment just how important it is for people to feel safe in their relationships, at their jobs, and in everyday life.


Deliberate Kindness cultivates empathy

The journalist Charles Blow once wrote, “One doesn't have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.” Everywhere we look right now, we can see the results of a lack of empathy in our world. Empathy is the most powerful force in the universe and the most significant point of connection we have to each other to help us make the world a better, safer, more inclusive place.

Seeking to understand someone’s true need in a specific moment keeps us from offering things that aren’t needed and which can, potentially, cause more harm. To offer solutions instead of empathy often leads to more conflict, not less. Empathy doesn’t require solutions from us. It only requires understanding and the willingness to sit with or hold space for another person’s struggles or pain.


Deliberate Kindness honors diversity

When we honor the diversity inherent in people and learn to recognize how they are wired and how they prefer to move through the world, our impact can match our good intentions. What feels like kindness to me may not feel like kindness to you. Living by the Golden Rule, we assume that way we want to be treated will work for others, too, but kindness, like recognition, like Love Languages, isn’t “one size fits all.” If we begin to move through the world according to the rules of Deliberate Kindness, we treat others as THEY want to be treated. By asking questions that honor different people's wiring.


By seeing people as the uniquely wired, beautiful individuals they are.


By recognizing that good intentions don’t always translate directly to positive impact and adjusting our behavior accordingly.


By acting deliberately, we can increase context and consent, and take care of others in ways that allow them safety and create empathy.


Because the world is full of beautiful, wildly different people with different needs, speeds, and creeds. Just imagine how much more inclusive the world could be if we increased our acts of deliberate kindness.


Three Kindnesses is a behavioral model for individuals, teams, and organizations based on safety, empathy, and diversity. The goal is to give people permission to be their authentic selves and to create the environments where they can thrive, find safety, and be valued for unique skills, wiring, identity, and experiences. With a strong focus on all forms of diversity, including neurodiversity, Three Kindnesses believes in working to understand the unique needs of individuals because understanding each other makes our world, kinder, safer, and more inclusive.


Angela Cox, PhD, is an organizational effectiveness consultant and Founder of Three Kindnesses.


For more information about Three Kindnesses, check out https://threekindnesses.com or follow us @3Kindnesses on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

 

Angela C M Cox, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

After beginning her career as a college professor, Dr. Angela Cox has spent two decades in HR and Learning and Development at Fortune 500 companies. From designing meaningful learning experiences to facilitating leadership development programs and consulting around employee engagement and organizational effectiveness, she was consistently focused on how to increase employee satisfaction and psychological safety through deliberate acts of kindness and inclusion. Despite an ever-growing list of skills and credentials, Angela and her neurodivergent brain often found it difficult to fit in and to find places where she could do her best work. Finally, after years of toning down her passion and shaving on her quirky edges to try and fit into a corporate mold, Angela co-founded Three Kindnesses in order to give others the permission she always wanted in her own workplace environments. Permission for people to be themselves, quirky edges and all. An emerging voice of encouragement and inspiration in the neurodivergent community and an ambassador for deliberate, radical kindness, Angela is also the author of two soon-to-be-released books on "How to Be Kind" and a contributing writer to Entrepreneur's Leadership Network.

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